Do I have to pay child support if my income is below the poverty line?

men's divorce lawyer Rachel BrucksQuestion:

I am the non-custodial parent and pay child support to my child’s mother. My wages are being garnished and my income has recently slipped below poverty level.

Will my child support case be closed and I won’t have to pay anymore because my income is below poverty level?



I am unable to tell from your question whether your child support order was issued by the state of Maine or Pennsylvania. I do not practice in Maine or Pennsylvania. Therefore, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of Maine or Pennsylvania. Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers in Pennsylvania who would be happy to arrange a consultation.

It is unlikely that your obligation to pay child support would be reduced to $0, and the your child support case “closed” with the state child support agency, even if your income falls below poverty level and/or that of the mother.

Most states have a formula they use when calculating child support based on the parties’ incomes. provides a child support calculator, but keep in mind it only provides rough estimates.

Even when the noncustodial parent becomes unemployed or their income falls below the poverty level, or below that which the custodial parent earns or receives, the noncustodial parent is usually required to pay at least some percentage of their income, or a minimum dollar figure, as child support.

The theory is that both parents have a duty to support the child, and no matter how little you earn, at least some portion of that income should go towards the support of the child. Even in the event you are able to claim an exceptional hardship, and the support payments become temporarily suspended, your case will most likely still remain open, as the agency will attempt to increase your child support once you do become more gainfully employed.


Rachel A. Brucks is a Staff Attorney in the Fort Worth, Texas office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Brucks is licensed in the state of Texas. Ms. Brucks received her Bachelors degrees in English and Political Science from the University of Texas at Arlington. She received her Masters in Literature and Gender Studies from Texas State University, San Marcos; and received her Juris Doctor from Southern Methodists University, Dallas.

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4 comments on “Do I have to pay child support if my income is below the poverty line?

    My state does not have a net income self-support reserve, and they allow courts to garnish up to the 65-percent of a parent’s net income allowed by federal law as ‘child support’.

    When I asked a lawyer that I was interviewing to get my visitation rights enforced about this issue, I was told that states see child support as a profit center because increasing the gross amount of child support collected increases the kickbacks that states receive under the Child Support Performance and Incentive Act for collecting ‘child support’.

    The same lawyer said that there are no federal financial incentives for enforcing visitation, which is why the courts fixate on child support enforcement and ignore visitation enforcement.

    non-custodial parent
    How do I dispute my current support orders, if i was just release from a temporary incarceration… Would I be eligible for a temp. suspension until , I regain full-time employment? How do I dispute the cost of my child support order for the time that I was incarcerated?

    Non-custodial support reform.
    Please come join us in our attempt to effect Child support reform. We have a generic petition on our site you can print and send to all of your elected officials. I’ll be posting a PDF document soon with the names and addresses of each states elected officials as well as federal officials who rule on these matters to make the process even easier and quicker for you.

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